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No Longer Plenty of Fish in the Sea

By Francesca Ciantar

I’m on the seafood diet; I see food, and I eat it – Homer Simpson

Perched on an island as we are, both Indigenous Australians and European settlers alike have historically enjoyed the fruits of the sea. Furthermore, as a nation of people who enjoy a summer Christmas as opposed to a white one, the turkey will often be replaced on the Australian Christmas menu by seafood.

The inconvenient reality is however that global fish populations have been devastated by humankind, with recent estimates indicating that ninety percent of the world’s fisheries are now fully exploited, over-exploited or have collapsed (see http://www.seafoodwatch.org/ocean-issues/wild-seafood).  Shifting away from a purely environmental perspective, fishing supports the livelihoods of an estimated 520 million people. Many of these people are from developing countries living as subsistence fishermen, and the depletion of fish stocks is causing hunger and poverty in these communities.  So how does the informed consumer proceed this season without having to serve their irate family a tofu flambé?

The good news is that you can still buy seafood (as a treat), you just need to be thoughtful about your choices. Happily, there is a lot of information and assistance available, including clever apps that can do the thinking for you.

For quick answers, log onto ‘switch the fish’ and use the helpful table to determine a sustainable option: https://www.sustainabletable.org.au

For more detailed information, we recommend the following websites:

  1. http://www.seafoodwatch.org
  2. http://www.sustainableseafood.org.au
  3. http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/oceans/Take-action/canned-tuna-guide/

You can also download any of the following free sustainable seafood apps, handy if you are put on the spot at the fish shop:

  1. Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide
  2. Seafood Watch
  3. Friends of the Sea

Finally, a note about seafood products that are labelled dolphin safe and dolphin friendly.  Dolphin friendly fishing practices are not necessarily shark, turtle and other animal friendly. Secondly, consumers who see the dolphin friendly insignia may be hoodwinked into believing that this is a guarantee of sustainable fishing practices.